Processes and Platforms Aligned with Technology Development - The Perspective of a Supplier in the Aerospace Industry
Technology development often has an unclear goal of building knowledge or demonstrating feasibility, is characterized by a high degree of initial uncertainty, and is in need of extensive experimentation. The purpose of this research has been to build knowledge concerning means which support companies in the pursuit of innovation and technology development.
Two different approaches to managing the inherent uncertainty in technology development have been explored: applying a platform formulation and applying a normative stage-gate model for managing the development process. A qualitative research approach has been used. The research has been conducted in eight different studies involving six different companies in total, but where most of the research has been conducted at Volvo Aero Corporation, a Swedish aero engine company. Given the context of the case companies, the following main conclusions have been drawn:
- A platform formulation including product, process, and technology platforms has been proposed that appears both feasible and useful based on the empirical evidence.
- Normative process models based on the stage-gate model can benefit technology development, given that they are adapted to the explorative nature of such uncertain development and used with a higher degree of flexibility. Strategies to achieve flexibility that have been found include, for example, soft gates, loop-backs, stopping projects and redefining the focus, using the model recursively, and defining technology development as a relay race of different projects where each individual project follows a stage-gate process.
The possibility to generalize regarding these conclusions is limited, given that most of the research has been conducted in one company. However, external validity is strengthened by similar results found in literature and through comparison between the different companies included in this research. Finally, the transferability of the results is supported by a thorough description of the studied company and its industrial context.